Is Dry Scooping Pre-Workout Bad for You? Here’s What Experts Say About the TikTok Trend
Two women have filmed their adverse reactions to trying the trend.
TikTok is full of workout advice—most of it ineffective or possibly even harmful. The same can be said for another viral trend making the rounds right now on the social media app: "dry scooping" pre-workout powder.
Technically, dry scooping isn't anything new, but it has recently come back into the public eye with more people trying it on TikTok before their workouts. The gist: You are supposed to take a scoop of pre-workout powder dry and then chase it with water, as opposed to taking it how it's intended (diluting the powder with water and then drinking it).
For the most part, people come away from the trend unscathed—but two women had a pretty scary reaction to dry-scooping: One shared that she actually had a heart attack, and another couldn't breathe and needed her inhaler.
In a TikTok video posted on April 15, Briatney Portillo shared her experience: "Taking a dry pre workout scoop [because] I saw it trending on TikTok," she wrote in a caption over a photo with a rainbow clown face filter. "Ending up in the hospital because I had a heart attack," she added.
Portillo, 20, told BuzzFeed that she had a "heavy feeling" in her chest and "slight pain" after she tried dry scooping but added that it "wasn't too bad." She went to her job as an exotic dancer and "started sweating a lot" even though she was wearing a bikini. She developed more intense chest pain that "went to my back and to my left arm and my left arm went slightly limp, so I knew those were symptoms of a heart attack. I called 911 and the ambulance came," she said.
Portillo eventually shared in her comments on TikTok that she had what's known as a non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI), which is a partial or temporary blockage of blood flow to the heart, according to the Cleveland Clinic. "I have no heart conditions and I still got messed up," she said.
TikTok user @mkaaaybabee also had a scary incident after dry scooping. In her TikTok video, she's shown taking a scoop of pre-workout at the advice of a person sitting next to her. She takes a deep breath and then takes the powder like a shot, tipping her head back. She takes a sip of water but starts to gesture that she can't breathe, and then manages to get the words "I can't breathe" out as tears flood her eyes. She continues burping and gasping for air as the person with her searches for her inhaler. The video cuts out before she gets the medical device in her hands.
These cases are obviously quite alarming—so what's going on here? Is dry scooping pre-workout ever a good idea, or should you avoid it altogether? Here's what you need to know before you reach for a scoop.
What is pre-workout?
"Pre-workout" generally refers to pre-workout supplements or powders that people take before they exercise—and the ingredients vary between brands.
"The powders typically have caffeine, B vitamins, sometimes creatine," Albert Matheny, RD, CSCS, co-founder of SoHo Strength Lab, Promix Nutrition and ARENA, tells Health. "Some have amino acids like tyrosine…they're ingredients that are meant to improve your workout performance."
People seem to be dry scooping pre-workout in an effort to get an even more concentrated hit of energy before they exercise, to help them work out longer and harder.
Is dry scooping pre-workout bad for you?
There are a few potential issues with this. The first is the choking risk, as demonstrated by @mkaaaybabee's TikTok video. "You could very easily choke on that," Kathryn Boling, MD, a primary care physician at Baltimore's Mercy Medical Center, tells Health.
Dry scooping can also fuel dehydration, which would actually work against what you're going for here, Dr. Boling says. There's even a risk of pneumonia—a specific kind called aspiration pneumonia—if you happen to accidentally breathe some of that powder in, she says.
But the biggest potential issue is the big hit of concentrated caffeine you can get from dry scooping pre-workout, Dr. Boling says. Caffeine content in pre-workout varies, but some powders on Amazon have 250 milligrams of caffeine in one scoop. (That's nearly three times the amount of caffeine in one cup of coffee, according to the USDA.) These powders also aren't tightly regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration, so it's hard to know for sure if the amount of caffeine that's on the label is actually what you're getting.
If you're dry scooping pre-workout that's jammed with 250 milligrams of caffeine or more "that is a pretty big amount all at once," Dr. Boling says. Matheny agrees. "Mainlining a ton of caffeine is not good for your heart," he says. Doing that "could certainly be detrimental to the body, by increasing the heart rate and blood pressure acutely," Nicole Harkin, MD, a cardiologist based in San Francisco, told BuzzFeed.
It's unclear whether dry scooping would actually give someone a full-blown heart attack—especially a normally healthy individual. Instead, Dr. Boling says it's more likely that dry scooping pre-workout would exacerbate an underlying heart issue—even one you're not aware of.
If you're still interested in trying out pre-workout before a lift or run—and definitely not dry scooping it—Dr. Harkin suggested you speak with a doctor first. "Those who may be at higher risk for issues with these substances, like people with heart conditions, high blood pressure, and arrhythmias, should absolutely check in with their doctor before using them," she told BuzzFeed. "That said, everyone should make sure their doctor is aware of all substances they are consuming, including regular over-the-counter medications or supplements."
The bottom line regarding dry scooping pre-workout powder, according to experts: Just skip it. "Don't do this," says Dr. Boling. Instead, fuel up for your workout with whole foods instead.
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